WASHINGTON — President Trump excommunicated his onetime chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, from his circle on Wednesday, ending for now a partnership of convenience that transformed American politics while raising questions about the future of the nationalist-populist movement they cultivated together.
The rupture came after Mr. Bannon was quoted in a new book disparaging the president’s children, asserting that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” in meeting with Russians and calling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Mr. Trump, described by his spokeswoman as “furious, disgusted,” fired back by saying that Mr. Bannon had “lost his mind.”
In a written statement, the president excoriated Mr. Bannon as a self-promoting exaggerator who had “very little to do with our historic victory” in the 2016 presidential election and was “only in it for himself.” Rather than representing Mr. Trump’s hard-core political base or supporting his agenda to “make America great again,” Mr. Bannon was “simply seeking to burn it all down,” the president said.
While Mr. Trump had remained in touch with Mr. Bannon after pushing him out of the White House over the summer, the two now appear to have reached a breaking point. “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Mr. Trump said. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Assuming it lasts — and with Mr. Trump, nothing is ever certain — the schism could test whether he or Mr. Bannon has more resonance with the conservative base that has sustained the president through a tumultuous tenure marked by low poll numbers. Mr. Bannon’s Breitbart News has been a key weapon in Mr. Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party.
Cheering the breakup on Wednesday were establishment Republicans who resent Mr. Bannon’s bomb-throwing style and his vows to wage war on incumbent lawmakers in the party primaries this year. Senate Republicans could barely contain their glee as they redistributed Mr. Trump’s statement blasting Mr. Bannon with the note “in case you missed it” and a smiling face symbol. By afternoon, candidates whom Mr. Bannon has endorsed in a handful of races faced pressure to disavow his remarks about the president’s son.
At the White House on Wednesday morning, aides who had kept a watchful eye on Mr. Bannon’s efforts to make himself a kingmaker saw an opening to finally rid themselves of him. They encouraged the president to hit back publicly, and Mr. Trump went through at least three drafts of a statement with his communications director, Hope Hicks, and other aides before sending out a final version unlike any issued by a president against a top adviser in modern times.
“Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was,” Mr. Trump said in the statement. “It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”
A private lawyer representing Mr. Trump sent Mr. Bannon a letter on Wednesday directing him to cease and desist making derogatory comments about the president and his family and threatening a defamation lawsuit. “Legal action is imminent,” said the letter, first reported by ABC News and confirmed by a person close to the president.
Mr. Bannon declined to comment on Wednesday. But people close to him said that he believed that the president would eventually come around because Mr. Trump would need help with his base at a moment when his political muscle appeared to be on the wane. Mr. Bannon’s Breitbart site reported the contretemps but did not return fire against Mr. Trump on Wednesday.
The president was responding to comments attributed to Mr. Bannon in a new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff. The book, due out next Tuesday, was obtained by The Guardian, which first reported Mr. Bannon’s remarks, and New York magazine then posted an excerpt. A copy of the book was later obtained by The New York Times.
In the book, Mr. Bannon was quoted suggesting that Donald Trump Jr.; Jared Kushner, his brother-in-law; and Paul Manafort, then the campaign chairman, had been “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for meeting with Russians after being promised incriminating information on Hillary Clinton during a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan.
“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers,” Mr. Bannon said after The Times revealed the meeting in July 2017, according to Mr. Wolff’s book.
President Trump hit back at the former White House chief strategist through a statement saying that Mr. Bannon had nothing to do with his “historic victory.”
“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the F.B.I. immediately,” Mr. Bannon continued, according to the book.
He also said that the chance that Donald Trump Jr. did not introduce the Russians to his father “is zero,” a supposition rather than an assertion but one that would contradict the president’s insistence that he knew nothing about the meeting at the time.
According to Mr. Wolff, Mr. Bannon also predicted that a special counsel investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and any coordination with Trump aides would ultimately center on money laundering, an assessment that could lend credibility to an investigation the president has repeatedly called a witch hunt. “They’re going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV,” Mr. Bannon was quoted as saying.
Donald Trump Jr. did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But he jabbed at Mr. Bannon on Twitter on Wednesday when he reposted a message noting that Alabama now had a Democratic senator. “Thanks Steve,” the younger Mr. Trump wrote. “Keep up the great work.”
The president and his advisers blamed Mr. Bannon for backing Roy S. Moore for the Republican nomination in Alabama and then pressing Mr. Trump into endorsing Mr. Moore even after he was accused of sexual misconduct with several women and girls as young as 14. Mr. Moore ended up losing last month, embarrassing Mr. Trump and souring his already complicated and strained relationship with Mr. Bannon.
Mr. Trump grew more upset about an interview Mr. Bannon gave to Vanity Fair that criticized Mr. Kushner’s contacts with Russians. During his Christmas break in Florida, Mr. Trump stewed and consulted with aides and relatives, according to advisers, but ultimately opted against responding publicly to avoid drawing more attention to Mr. Bannon’s remarks.
But accusing the president’s eldest son of treason crossed the line. “Going after the president’s son in an absolutely outrageous and unprecedented way is probably not the best way to curry favor with anybody,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.
The book presents Mr. Trump as an ill-informed and thoroughly unserious candidate and president, engaged mainly in satisfying his own ego and presiding over a dysfunctional White House. It reports that early in the 2016 campaign, one aide, Sam Nunberg, was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” it quotes Mr. Nunberg as saying, “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”
The book cites an email from an unnamed White House aide offering a harsh assessment of Mr. Trump’s operation that was said to reflect the view of Gary D. Cohn, the president’s national economics adviser: “It’s worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won’t read anything — not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored.”
The book also asserts that Mr. Cohn and other advisers and associates of Mr. Trump deride him in private, calling him an “idiot,” a “dope” or “dumb” as dirt. Thomas J. Barrack, a friend and adviser to Mr. Trump, was quoted telling a friend that the president is “not only crazy, he’s stupid.”
Reached by telephone on Wednesday, Mr. Barrack said that account was “totally false.” Mr. Barrack added, “It’s clear to anyone who knows me that those aren’t my words and inconsistent with anything I’ve ever said.” He said that Mr. Wolff never ran that quotation by him to ask whether it was accurate.
A longtime media columnist and author, Mr. Wolff brings a high profile, vivid writing style and years of experience but sometimes mixed reviews to the task of chronicling Mr. Trump’s White House. Interview subjects have complained in the past that he took comments meant to be off the record and used them. In a 2004 profile, the journalist Michelle Cottle wrote that “the scenes in his columns aren’t recreated so much as created — springing from Wolff’s imagination rather than from actual knowledge of events.”
Mr. Wolff clearly benefited from close cooperation from Mr. Bannon and the book is infused with his views. The author was frequently seen in Mr. Bannon’s office while he was still working in the White House. According to Ms. Sanders, Mr. Wolff spoke with the president just once, for five to seven minutes, in the first month of the administration, when Mr. Trump called Mr. Wolff to thank him for his criticism of a Times article that the president did not like.
Going beyond the president’s pushback on Mr. Bannon, Ms. Sanders attacked the book as a whole, hoping to discredit its reporting. Ms. Sanders released a statement calling it “trashy tabloid fiction” that is “filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House.”
Mr. Wolff, responding by email, said he was “wholly comfortable with my numerous sources.”
the new york times
and then.... in the next story...
Steve Bannon Out At Breitbart
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is out at far-right Breitbart News, the outlet confirmed Tuesday.
“I’m proud of what the Breitbart team has accomplished in so short a period of time in building out a world-class news platform,” he said in a statement. Bannon was a founding member of the board and took over as executive chairman of Breitbart News following founder Andrew Breitbart’s death in 2012.
In a statement Tuesday, Breitbart CEO Larry Solov commemorated Bannon’s role in establishing the site.
“Steve is a valued part of our legacy, and we will always be grateful for his contributions, and what he has helped us to accomplish,” he said.
Bannon is also out as the host of “Breitbart News Daily” on SiriusXM radio, the station confirmed.
Rumors of Bannon’s ouster from the conservative news outlet began Thursday, when The Wall Street Journal reported that the owners of the publication were debating Bannon’s future.
During a press briefing Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Breitbart should consider firing Bannon.
“I certainly think that it’s something they should look at and consider,” she said.
Bannon’s exit comes after he feuded with President Donald Trump last week. The former executive was quoted saying that a 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., other Trump associates and a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower was “treasonous.”
“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers,” Bannon told Michael Wolff in an excerpt from Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.
“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately,” Bannon added.
The fallout from Bannon’s comments was almost immediate. On Wednesday, Trump’s lawyer sent Bannon a cease-and-desist letter claiming the former aide had “breached the Agreement by, among other things, communicating with author Michael Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company [the campaign], disclosing Confidential Information to Mr. Wolff, and making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements to Mr. Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members.”
Trump said Wednesday that Bannon “has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.” And on Thursday, Trump said he doesn’t speak to Bannon.
Rebekah Mercer, a financial backer of Breitbart, distanced herself from Bannon in an interview with The Washington Post.
“I support President Trump and the platform upon which he was elected,” Mercer told the publication. “My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements.”
Bannon left his job as White House strategist in August, telling Bloomberg Businessweek that he would fight for Trump “against his opponents ― on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America.”
“If there’s any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I’m leaving the White House and going to war,” he told the outlet at the time.
huffington post isn't rolling in the memes